Planning a Presentation or a Report

The following thoughts come from Jay Heinrich's book Thank You for Arguing. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2007. The following is only a half-page excerpt. If you want to become a good rhetorician, I recommend reading the entire book. The ISBN is 978-0-307-34144-0. Check it out; the book contains just enough levity to be most entertaining also.

Introduction: The ethos part, which wins you "the interest and the good will of the audience," as Cicero puts it. (He calls this section the exordium.)

Narration, or statement of facts: Tell the history of the matter or list your facts and figures. If you have time, do both. This part should be brief, clear, and plausible. Don't repeat yourself. State the facts in chronological order, but don't begin at the beginning of time--just the part that is relevant to the immediate argument. Don't startle the audience with "believe it or not" facts--this part should be predictable. What they hear should usual, expected, and natural.

Division: List the points where you and your opponent agree and where you disagree. This is where you can get into definitions as well. It's a biological issue. It's an ethical issue. It's a rights issue. It's a practical issue (what benefits our society the most?). It's a fairness issue.

Proof: Here is where you get into your actual argument, setting out your argument packet ("We should do this because of that") and your examples.

Refutation: Destroy your opponent's argument here.

Conclusion: Restate your best points and, if you want, get a little emotional.

You will find this outline on page 250 of the book. You can also learn the difference between slippery slope, a fallacy, and climax, an effective rhetorical form. You may even find out why a realtor should bake some bread or put some cinnamon sticks in the oven for an open house. The text contains many tricks of effective communication that may involve goals, ethos, pathos, and logos.

Dr. Reinhold Schlieper
May 4, 2008